In a bid to track sea pollution by mimicking how fish navigate and work together, scientists have moved their robotic fish from the lab to the sea. The technology could reduce the time it takes to detect a pollutant from weeks to just seconds, scientists said. It could also aid underwater security, diver monitoring and search and rescue efforts.
The fish—5 feet long and costing about $31,600 each—are designed to swim like real fish and have sensors to pick up pollutants. They swim independently but coordinate their actions and send data back to a shore station more than a half mile away. Chemical sensors fitted to the fish permit real-time, in-situ analysis, rather than the current method of sample collection and dispatch to a shore-based laboratory. Through artificial intelligence software, the fish can avoid obstacles, map their location and return to base when their eight-hour batteries run low.